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Padecky: Heisman vote murky due to possible charges

  • Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston warms up before an NCAA college football game against Florida in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

I see myself getting a headache every December, for that's when I vote for the year's best college football player and for those to gain entry into Cooperstown. For me the cruelest month of the year around here is not when the freezing weather comes in January and February. It's when the ballots come in December.

What do I do about Florida State's Jameis Winston? He is the quarterback of America's best college football team, at least the team ranked first right now. He has 3,490 yards, 35 touchdowns, just eight interceptions and enough praise as a player to overwhelm even Tony Robbins.

Winston has my vote, but I'll be sliding my ballot under the door without looking, not wanting to see what happens next. Within a couple of weeks, prosecutors have told us, they will make a decision on whether to charge Winston on sexual assault. If that's the case, that would happen after I submit my ballot next Monday, and after the Heisman winner is announced Dec. 14.

The Heisman winner doesn't have the same emotional cachet it did when I started voting for it 21 years ago. The NFL has come to dwarf America's sports landscape. Heisman winners are judged on what they do as pros. And I am not naming any names, Tim Tebow, but Heisman failures in pro football — rightly or wrongly — have diminished the award.

It's like NCAA is the minor leagues for the NFL.

A couple of days after the Heisman winner is announced, I predict more people still will be talking about the finish of last Saturday's Auburn-Alabama game than who won the Heisman. And they should.

That 109-yard touchdown return by Auburn of a missed field goal was unique, thrilling almost beyond description. It was the only moment I have seen in college football to rival the five-lateral finish of the 1982 Cal-Stanford Big Game.

That said, I still find a knot in my stomach as I vote for Winston. I'm not enjoying the thought that three months from now it's possible I will have voted for a convicted felon. Of course we don't know that. Heck, these are just allegations. He hasn't even been arraigned. Winston is innocent until proven guilty.

And why shouldn't we think there might be a plea deal in the works, something like Winston agreeing to spend 100 community-service hours at cleaning trash cans and supplying meals at a women's shelter. Do not be surprised if this sexual assault allegation disappears in the ether.

What if it doesn't? What if Winston is convicted? What if he goes to jail? What if he becomes a convicted felon? Should his name be removed as the Heisman winner?

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